Whitwell, Tenn. – Since its inception, the Whitwell Middle School Children’s Holocaust Museum has received hundreds of World War II-era original documents. Whether documents from the concentration camps or letters from survivors and their families, there is a treasure trove of documentation. As is true with most documents at the origination date, the document’s longevity wasn’t considered. Now that some of those documents are entering their eighth decade, their preservation has become a serious consideration. Recently, Middle Tennessee State University came down to Whitwell to offer a hand towards proper documentation management.
Kira Duke, a preservation specialist with the center, said, “Really, the most important thing we’ll be doing is coming up with a document management plan for the resources within the museum.”
Graduate student Morgan Condrey added, “We’ll really need to help layout the different types of documents and other items and then really get to the ‘preservation’ part.” Throughout their visit to the museum, the pair was exposed to the wealth of artifacts, with the help of Linda Hooper and Taylor McDaniel-Kilgore. They have been long-term mainstays in the museum. In addition, Duke and Condrey were escorted through the museum’s interior components and the famous railcar component of the museum’s lore.
In the dialog, the CHM was advised to look at getting the original document scanned and duplicated. Encouraging the records being handled by the museum patrons and students be the scanned duplicated items. “Some of these documents are at the point that the stress of scanning may be too much, and the emphasis should be on keeping them as untouched as possible.” Next, the team went through the museum’s environment, addressing temperature, humidity, lighting, and other atmospheric considerations for where documents are kept. Whereas the museum’s archive of documents is desirable, other items, including clothing and even a children’s doll, were considered in the evaluation. “Truthfully, you’re going to want those items to be displayed flat,” Duke offered as an observation. That is in contrast to the current displays in shadow boxes and the fabric pinned or attached to the back of the box. The long-term stress of the weight of the display leads to hastening the degradation of the fabric integrity.
The process is just getting started and will be much more a process than an event, but the timing of the considerations couldn’t come at a better time. The Whitwell Heritage Committee is in the early stages of planning the Whitwell Heritage Center. The Heritage Center seeks to house many facets of the community as well as help pay homage to the community’s history. As planned, the Heritage Center will provide a new home for the Holocaust Museum, the Coal Miners Museum, Orena Humphreys Library, a Veteran’s Center, and a Senior Center. Undoubtedly, the guidance gleaned from the Center for Historic Preservation will be able to be integrated into the buildout of the museum’s projected new home.